Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, immune-mediated, demyelinating disease of the central nervous system of as yet unknown aetiology. A consensus of opinion has suggested that the disorder is the result of an interplay between environmental factors and susceptibility genes.
We have used a battery of analytical techniques to determine if the urinary excretion of i) markers of oxidative damage; ii) iron and iii) the environmental toxin aluminium and its antagonist, silicon, are altered in relapsing remitting (RRMS) and secondary progressive MS (SPMS). Urinary concentrations of oxidative biomarkers, MDA and TBARS, were not found to be useful indicators of inflammatory disease in MS.
However, urinary concentrations of another potential marker for inflammation and oxidative stress, iron, were significantly increased in SPMS (P<0.01) and insignificantly increased in RRMS (P>0.05). Urinary concentrations of aluminium were also significantly increased in RRMS (P<0.001) and SPMS (P<0.05) such that the levels of aluminium excretion in the former were similar to those observed in individuals undergoing metal chelation therapy.
The excretion of silicon was lower in MS and significantly so in SPMS (P<0.05). Increased excretion of iron in urine supported a role for iron dysmetabolism in MS. Levels of urinary aluminium excretion similar to those seen in aluminium intoxication suggested that aluminium may be a hitherto unrecognized environmental factor associated with the aetiology of MS.
If aluminium is involved in MS then an increased dietary intake of its natural antagonist, silicon, might be a therapeutic option.